“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
So in the aftermath of the Hill I’ll Die On manifesto I just wrote, I decided to crawl up out of my uni-bomber bunker and watch a movie. I can only watch so much of the Olympics, after all, and this one particular movie piqued my interest as it sat languishing in my Netflix Instant Queue. The movie, Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is based on the provocative premise that both members of a couple, after reaching a point in their relationship where things just didn’t work, each decide to hire a company to erase the memories of the other. It’s a simple and effective way to deal with the pain and hurt of their breakup, a breakup characterized by lots of shouting and nasty remarks fired like missiles at each other. The pain we inflict on those we love. The result, though, for Carrey’s Joel Barish, is a desire to not forget. So he has to fight to retain the shards of memory that are being targeted like so many ducks on the proverbial pond. The result made for really therapeutic watching. A good use of an hour and a half.
The point that I already knew was that all experiences are for the best, and that we should never hope to forget even the most hurtful of times (unless repression kicks in, and those experiences are pretty darn bad). The other lesson, one that I liked even more, was that love can survive even the darkest of times. Now this is no pollyanna story. I won’t give it away but it isn’t sappy. In fact, Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey (yes, he was really good in this serious role) do well to make the detritus of a failed relationship so sharp and real; so real, in fact, that sadness permeates both actors. It’s really well done. It’s worth watching.
I was struck, too, by this bit of dialogue at the end. Real, hopeful, sad: all of the swirling emotions that surround a breakup. What do you think?
Clementine: Hi. Didn’t figure you’d show your face around me again. I guess I thought you were… humiliated. You did run away, after all.
Joel: I just needed to see you.
Joel: Id like to, um… take you out, or something.
Clementine: You’re married.
Joel: Not yet, not married. No, I’m not married.
Clementine: Look man, I’m telling you right off the bat, Im high-maintenance, so… I’m not gonna tip-toe around your marriage, or whatever it is you’ve got goin there. If you wanna be with me, you’re with me.
Clementine: Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.
Joel: I remember that speech really well.
Clementine: I had you pegged, didn’t I?
Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
Clementine: Hmm. Probably.
Joel: I still thought you were gonna save my life… even after that.
Clementine: Ohhh… I know.
Joel: It would be different, if we could just give it another go-round.
Clementine: Remember me. Try your best; maybe we can.
David L. Smith’s article in the Journal of Religion and FIlm is pretty darn good, too. Link is here if you want to read more about this very complicated and entertaining film.